The Happiness Illusion (updated)

 

happiness is not good enough

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

You are constantly bombarded by self help gurus that preach the mantra that happiness is the primary goal for you life. Take some time to observe your own life and calculate the amount of time each day or week where you feel truly happy. I’m not talking about the times you feel content, challenged, or at peace, but instead the emotion of feeling very happy or elated. If you are forever chasing some state of happiness where the majority of the hours of the day are filled with happiness, then you are setting yourself up to experience yet another emotion, which will be a feeling of disappointment. You immediately jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong or I would be happy all the time, instead of the brief forays into happiness I am currently experiencing.

I’m guessing your day is filled with time spent in some or all of the following emotions:

  • Feeling anxious.
  • Frustration with yourself, others, or some man made process or rule.
  • Feeling challenged by your work and/or people you work with.
  • Loving others or feeling loved.
  • Feeling the fear of the unknown or known.
  • Anger or being pissed off about something or someone.
  • Self loathing for not living up to your own expectations or the expectations of others.
  • Envy for things or envious of what others have.
  • Fleeting moments of bliss or happiness.
  • Satisfaction with accomplishing something or learning something new.
  • Feeling uninspired or tired.
  • Feeling appreciated or unappreciated.
  • Desiring stuff, money, sex, or some mind altering drugs or alcohol.

I could go on and on with this list of emotions we experience often on a daily basis. We are filled with all these thoughts that affect our well being and all the yoga and mediation in the world will not eradicate them from your mind, believe me I’ve tried. Give yourself a fucking break, you are an emotional bundle of somewhat uncontrollable thoughts and you know it. Don’t and I mean do not let some dumb ass on YouTube tell you that if you buy this, or practice this, all of this will go away, and your life will become one big vacation. You can’t exist in some state of continuous bliss; you are not the Dali Lama. Sure you can seek enlightenment and end all this suffering and discontent, and I hope you achieve it someday, but on the off chance you don’t then you are going to have to learn to live in the world you currently inhabit.

I think happiness is overrated, there are many other emotional states that should occupy your mind; those that are more valuable to you and to others. I’m not saying you should live in some state or misery, but chasing a state of happiness is an illusion. Replace that quest with these feelings or life goals:

  • Taking responsibility for you life, your work, and your decisions.
  • Feeling challenged by your work and the fulfillment you feel when you step up to take on the challenge, win or lose.
  • Feeling good about yourself because you are working at being more disciplined.
  • Being grateful for all the shit you have; just look around you and notice the type of life that many are merely existing in, and you will see you have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Developing an appreciation for the people in your life, family, friends, co-workers, and customers.
  • The quiet satisfaction you feel from learning that came from reading, studying, experimenting, watching, and listening.
  • Desiring more from yourself or desiring more from life than you are currently getting. Desiring more for your life is not a bad thing. A lot of great things have been done by people with a burning desire to accomplish something.

Suffering builds character

In fact I would challenge you to consider that happiness as your constant state of mind would put you at a big disadvantage in life when it comes to achieving what you want. You need to experience difficult times, challenges, and a certain amount of pain to grow as a person. Maybe you can be satisfied by all the obstacles you have overcome to be where you are today, instead of wishing for a life of ease and self gratification. If the totality of life consisted of sitting on a beach in the Caribbean and drinking one Margarita after another how happy would you be then?

Think back on all the things you have accomplished, the events in your life that bring back good memories. What about the time you landed that job you wanted, or met that special person, or obtained that degree or certification you worked so hard for. I’ll bet you weren’t sitting around bullshitting yourself in some blissful state of euphoria; instead you got off your ass and took action. Quit wishing for happiness and start doing something constructive; in the long run you will feel a whole lot better about yourself.

I used to watch all this motivational shit on YouTube from Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Eric Thomas, Les Brown, and Bob Proctor, but instead of motivating me it made me feel dissatisfied with my work and my life in general. To tell you the truth these people have some good ideas, but ultimately they are trying to sell you one of their books or have you come to their seminar. Meanwhile they make you feel unfulfilled about your life so they can generate more sales and then you just feel like shit when you could have been enjoying the life you have.

You already know what you need to change in your life to progress. You certainly don’t need someone else to tell you the areas of your life that are pretty fucked up.

Let me leave you with this quote from Gary John Bishop that comes from his book UNFU*K Yourself:

I expect nothing and accept everything!

Try living your life for a while expecting nothing and accepting everything that happens to you. If you expect to be happy all the time and can’t accept it when life sucker punches you then you are doomed my friend. Drop the stupid expectations and take life as it is served up to you, then you can at least control the suffering and enjoy the good stuff.

Namaste

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One of life’s greatest pleasures

never stop learning concept on blackboard

We spend a good part of our life looking for satisfaction by acquiring things like bigger homes, expensive cars, and other possessions. Our quest for these things becomes our focus, believing that they will bring us happiness and pleasure. I’m not sure where all of this came from, maybe it is a result of our culture, but it often leads to a misguided approach to life.

As human beings we have an innate need to learn, which leads to self improvement, and yes happiness. For me and so many others, one of life’s greatest pleasures is learning. Think about the times you have been really happy. Maybe this was when you were pursuing a degree, studying for a certification, or learning something from your own studies or work. Unlike acquiring some material possession your pursuit of knowledge can never be taken away from you, it will not erode or decay over time. The pleasure you get by learning doesn’t wear off, but instead provides an infinite source of gratification.

Most of us can agree that goals are a good thing, they provide focus and direction, but make sure that learning is one of your highest priority goals. In fact those other material things are often the result of learning. Sure it’s great to have a nice car, a comfortable home, electronic toys, and whatever else you enjoy possessing. Unfortunately as you focus on attaining these things, once acquired they leave you with a taste for more much like any other addiction. One should also weigh the cost of what you might have to give up to acquire all these things. While learning costs you very little, maybe the cost of the book, and an investment of your time.

Take a few moments today and think back on a time when you were not obsessed with things, but instead spent your time learning about subjects that interested you. Can you think of anything that brought you more pleasure? It is never too late to change the way you think, modify your goals, and focus on the one thing that can bring you great satisfaction, happiness, and pleasure.

The very act of learning about things that interest you opens the door to everything else, creating opportunities go grow and to contribute to this world. Don’t misunderstand me I am not advocating you become a monk; I have material goals, but most of my goals are centered around learning for personal or professional development, and these are the goals that that provide the most pleasure in my life.

Namaste

Define Happiness

In my last post I wrote about how you might bring some happiness into your life with meditation, but I neglected to really define what happiness is. I looked up a number of definitions and they used words like a joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or satisfied to describe the elusive happiness. For me it is probably a more neutral feeling where I am not one of the following: angry, jealous, envious, entitled, critical, or dissatisfied. So is happiness just the opposite of some of these negative emotions or thoughts? I often have issues defining something like happiness through my own experience because I do not possess the intellectual maturity to experience a consistent state of mind for any prolonged period of time, making it difficult for me to be an expert in it.

Happiness is

So if happiness includes joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or simply feeling satisfied with life then I look to those that seem to be in that state of mind on a consistent basis. I only know a couple of people that fit that description, and though I cannot read their mind I can describe some of the behaviors they exhibit.  Someone very close to me is probably the happiest person I know, and frankly they have no more reason than you or I do for that state of mind, but here are a few of the things I have noticed:

  • They seem to start each day the same, calm and positive
  • They do not let little things like traffic and other stuff bother them
  • They rarely complain
  • They spend most of their time helping others and do not feel taken advantage of
  • They don’t think they are better than anyone else, in fact if anything they undervalue themselves
  • They work hard, but they are not ambitious in a classical sense (money, position, power)
  • They feel blessed that they can do what they enjoy for a job
  • Each day they seem to experience joy, pleasure, contentment, and some sense of satisfaction

Now these people are clearly not the majority on this planet, but they seem to be able avoid or minimize times of anger, resentment, envy, and being critical better than the rest of us. As you remember in my last post I advocated meditation as means of acquiring some happiness in my life, and I stand by that recommendation, but there is something different about these happy people I’ve mentioned. They do not necessarily meditate, they are not monks or nuns, instead they walk among us, and I’m not even sure they know why they are so happy. Maybe if we emulate their behavior we too can begin to enjoy some of the day to day serenity that comes with happiness.  From the behaviors listed above let’s see if we can boil them down into some things we can do everyday, maybe even as an affirmation:

  1. I will meditate for at least 10 minutes every morning
  2. I will ignore the  small stuff
  3. I will stop bitching and whining
  4. I will do things for others without feeling they need to reciprocate
  5. I will stop thinking I am better or worse than anyone else
  6. I will find something I love to do and do it every day
  7. I will write down something I am grateful for each day

Again I’m no expert, in fact I need the above list more than most. I have a lot of respect for those people that can lead a happy existence, and I am determined to follow in their footsteps and achieve some sense of satisfaction and contentment myself.  Ready to join me?